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The humble DVD/CD duplicator: often overlooked in our Internet driven, virtual world, these unsung heroes are still an excellent means of distributing audio and video content. Rather than wasting your valuable time plugging in disc after disc, one at a time into your computer, a duplicator can relieve you of a lot of this drudgery while at the same time freeing your computer up for other tasks and saving its disc burner a good deal of wear and tear. In addition to simple duplicators, CD, DVD and even Blu-Ray publishing machines allow you to print images directly to the discs for an even more professional-looking copies.
While it's fairly easy to outsource disc making and packaging to a specialized company, for a lot of people and businesses it makes sense to do it in-house, for several reasons. First of all, if you have a lot of discs to make on a regular basis and you don't need digipacks, jewel cases or other elaborate packaging for the discs, you can save yourself a lot of costs over time. Second, duplicators allow you to start making copies of your content immediately, eliminating the wait for your discs to come back from the plant.
Production houses and agencies trying to deliver time-sensitive material to clients on disc don't have time to spare. Also, lecturers and speakers, for example, can record an event and have copies ready to distribute very quickly; allowing audiences to enjoy a physical document of the live event they attended. A motivational speaker can videotape their event, complete with Q and A and audience participation, and then make copies available for the attendees—while they won’t be ready by the time the audience walks out the door, the turnaround can be pretty quick. As soon as the videographer finishes the edit, copy making can begin immediately. In fact, it can all take place on the tour bus. Within days, audience members can order a disc of the event they attended. This idea works for musicians and other performers as well, who want to make a document of live events available for fans.
A fairly portable desktop solution that works with your Mac or PC is the Microboards G3 Disc Publisher DVD Burning and Printing System. The G3 has a 50-disc capacity, meaning you can set it up to burn and print up to 50 discs (CDs or DVDs) at one time without having to come back and reload. In addition to the 24X speed DVD burner, the G3 has a high-quality print mechanism that uses a tri-color ink cartridge to deliver 4800 dpi resolution printing. PC users can design the disc labels using the included SureThing label design software for Windows, while Mac users will need to use their own software for label design. Computer connection is done via USB 2.0; PrintWrite software for Mac and Windows is included for operation. For this kind of inkjet labeling, you'll need White Inkjet Printable CDs or DVDs available from Verbatim, Maxell and others and you'll be able to print about 200 CDs from one ink cartridge.
If you'd prefer to save yourself the hassle and expense of replacing the cartridge, then consider the Aleratec RoboRacer LS Publishing System. The LS in the name refers to its LightScribe printing system, that uses a laser to print the labels, eliminating the need for replacement ink cartidges. You can burn up to 100 discs at once, then flip them over and reload them to print the labels. For a completely automated system, you can step up to the Aleratec DVD/CD RoboRacer LS Duplex, which has two trays, one for burning the CD and the other for labeling, eliminating the need for a manual flip and re-load.
Of course, in addition to those fairly portable models, larger options are available to serve the needs of schools, houses of worship, small post-production facitilites and others where a smaller footprint is less of a concern. Being able to quickly and easily duplicate audio or video recordings of sermons and musical performances allows parishioners to take the message home with them. Duplicators also allow schools to distribute copies of band performances, plays and other events to students and parents quickly and easily.
Microboards makes a number of quality, reliable CD/DVD duplicators, including the three tower models in their QD-DVD line. They all feature USB 2.0 connections for your computer and can also operate in stand-alone mode without a computer. In addition, all three units feature a 500GB drive, allowing you to store disc images so you can easily retrieve any job when it's time to burn additional copies. The smallest and least expensive is the QD-DVD-123, which allows you to burn three discs simultaneously from one master; while the QD-DVD-125 burns 5 and the QD-DVD-127 burns 7 discs at once. All burn at speeds of 24X for DVDs and 48X for CDs. None of these models prints labels on the discs though, so you can create labels with your computer and printer and them attach them manually or you can choose to move to a CD publisher.
In addition to the G3 mentioned earlier, Microboards also makes larger-capacity publishers. The CX-1 is heavier than the G3, so it's less portable but it has a 100-disc capacity, allowing you to leave it for longer periods without having to return to fill the tray. For higher-capacity publishing you can step up to the Microboards MX series, which is quite similar to the CX-1, but designed for higher-volume use. Both the MX-1 and MX-2 have 100-disc capacity, but the MX-1 has only one tray while the MX-2 has two burners, which allows it to burn twice as many discs in the same amount of time. Both the MX-1 and MX-2 use seperate C, M, Y, K high-capacity ink cartridges that produce great-looking print, reduce waste and deliver discs at lower costs.
|Microboards CX-1||Microboards MX-1|
Certain users are going to want to have their discs copy-protected. If that's the case, consider a duplicator like the Applied Magic 5-Bay Fort Knox Duplicator, which offers copy protection as effective as that used on Hollywood DVDs—without the associated licensing costs—along with the option of disabling PC playback on the discs for added protection. The Fort Knox is also available in a smaller 3-Bay version as well as larger 7, 9, 11 and 14-Bay versions for larger jobs where piracy protection is needed.
Larger operations such as big production houses, mega-churches and others may need even higher-capacity duplicators and publishers. For a growing business, a good place to start is the Microboards 10-Drive Daisy-Chainable LightScribe DVD Tower. This scalable design lets you start with one tower and then daisy-chain additional towers together as your business grows. This model uses LightScribe printing to label your discs, and features a 500GB internal hard drive to store the disc images.
Microboards Networkable CopyWriter Pro Tower Duplicators are even more advanced, allowing you to connect to any PC within a given network for added convenience and security. The operator can control the duplicators remotely with the towers all safely locked up in a secure location, keeping potentially sensitive material away from general employees. They're available in 1:5, 1:7 and 1:10 configurations for CD/DVD duplication, and if you need to burn Blu-ray discs as well, there are 1:7 and 1:10 versions. Of course, you'll still have to go into the "undisclosed location" where the towers are and manually swap out the discs after each burn, so for the ultimate in automated disc publishing, consider the Microboards HCL series.
The models in the HCL series all offer 1,000-disc-capacity duplication and use a robotic arm to load the discs into the burner trays. In addition to LightScribe printing (not available for the Blu-ray models), each features a 250GB hard drive to store disc images, and Multi-Master Recognition Technology, allowing you to run multiple jobs in succession. Separate models are available with four drives for just burning CD/DVDs, burning CD/DVDs with LightScribe and burning Blu-ray discs (as well as CD/DVDs). There are models with six drives available for burning CD/DVDs with LightScribe and for burning Blu-ray discs and CD/DVDs. Eight-drive versions are available as well for burning CD/DVDs or CD/DVDs with LightScribe, depending on how quickly you need to turn the copies around.
CDs and DVDs are an inexpensive, highly available format, but as the cost of memory falls, USB flash drives are becoming an increasingly popular medium to share information. Conference and seminar attendees can be given a flash drive with reference material, while a sales force armed with Netbooks can be sent into the field with Power Point presentations and other pertinent product information on a handy thumb drive. When product lines are changed or revised, the drives can be returned, erased and updated with new data.
Microboards CopyWriter series of USB flash duplicators offers 1:7, 1:11 and 1:15, depending on the volume of copies you need, and all offer stand-alone, one-touch operation. Not to be outdone, Aleratec sports its own line of USB flash drive duplicators that range from the small portable 1:10 USB Copy Cruiser Mini Thumb Drive Duplicator that requires a computer, all the way up to the 1:118 USB Copy Tower SA that can copy data from one flash drive to up to 118 targets simultaneously, and can operate in stand-alone mode.
Hopefully, this gives you a reasonable idea of some the CD, DVD and flash drive duplication options available. With a number of different options, B&H surely has the right duplictor or publisher to handle your copy-making needs. Thanks for reading this In-Depth article, and feel to share your thoughts in the Comments section, below.